History will remember Donald Trump - Opinion

Donald Trump

Much to American people’s chagrin, history will remember their 44th president, who was elected to office to restore the nation’s greatness, as the man who ended up reducing it to irresponsible warmongering and an untrustworthy actor in the eyes of the international community.

The Trump administration’s abrupt decision to unilaterally dump the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or more popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal) and reinstate sanctions against Tehran, reflects its willingness to flirt with risks of stoking up major geopolitical tension for domestic political gains, even if it means jeopardizing regional security and undermining global non-proliferation efforts.  

In his announcement on Tuesday, Trump attempted to justify his decision by citing Israeli intelligence revealed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, saying the evidence is ”definitive proof that this Iranian promise (of a peaceful nuclear energy program) was a lie”. Despite the fact that both the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections and US intelligence reports have repeatedly suggested that Iran has not been violating the deal.

On the surface, the basis for Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is the belief that Tehran will not pursue nuclear program for peaceful purposes, but that is precisely the reason the P5+1 countries used diplomatic means to broker the deal in the very first place.

There was general understanding in 2015 that diplomacy and dialogue, instead of hostility and isolation, is the most preferred way of resolving Iranian nuclear issue. Worse yet, by walking away from the multilateral agreement, Trump essentially encourages Tehran to restart its nuclear weapon program.

Indeed, the option seems to be on the table for Iran as its Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned in April that the uranium enrichment program could be resumed within 4 days had the US been true to its declared intention of preventing Iran from making nuclear weapons. The rational approach would certainly be preserving the deal’s integrity and not destroying it.

Some might argue that the motivation behind Trump’s denouncement of the JCPOA is to subdue Iran’s regional ambition and punish its intervening activities in Syria and Lebanon.

If containment is what Trump seeks, wouldn’t it make more sense if he stayed in an agreement that does not only prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, but also allows all signatories to form a unified position to pressure the Iranian regime on matters of concern?

Withdrawing from the deal will only serve to derail all relevant parties’ decade-long effort in negotiation, and push Iran to become evermore reluctant to reenter into any new deals involving the United States.

America’s position is unlikely to win international support. Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson had all failed to convince Trump to stay in the deal. They tried, they pleaded, they failed.

For the first time in decades, the United States is pursuing a unilateral agenda with total disregard of the interests of its allies and partners, amounting to a scornful attack on the global order it claims to protect.

And imagine how much credibility the United States will have in international negotiations after this episode, especially when the summit with North Korean (DPRK) leader Kim Jung Un is forthcoming.

A mixture of reasons has led Trump to the Iran blunder- by far his worst – including partisan fervor to dismantle any political legacy left by Barack Obama, relentless lobbying efforts by anti-Iran donors, hawkish advice given by hardline aides, living memory of past grudges with post-revolution Iran, the need to appease pro-Israel voters, and last but not least his ignorance of geostrategic consequences.

The renewed sanctions will inevitably cause more suffering on the Iranian people, fueling political discontent and weakening Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s domestic mandate, thus in turn catalysing another regime change in Iran – but in a direction polar opposite to what America could hope for.

Violence could unravel in a number of ways. There is real chance the United States will launch a preventive strike should Iran defiantly choose to develop the weapon.

And when bombs are dropping on Iranian soil, will the people continue to support a leader who had vouched for American credibility? Or will a more staunchly anti-American strongman come to power?

Though clerical in nature, the current Iranian regime is the mildest administration possible when you compare it to other more bellicose alternatives. The United States now risks destroying not only peace and prosperity for the region, but also its own strategic interest.

Worse yet, Iran and Israel – who, as Trump made his announcement, was busy bombing Damascus – could head to war. Though they are not fighting each other for the time being, the possibility looms large for the future.

When it happens, it will not be a limited conflict, but a total struggle for survival. If major world powers including Russia and the United States itself are dragged into the hot war situation, there will be dire implications for peace and development across the world.

With increased likelihood of America redoubling its engagement in the Middle East, probably the most ironic part of Trump’s irresponsible decision is that he essentially walked back on his campaign promise of decreasing foreign intervention and focusing on treating domestic maladies.

“The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies,” candidate Trump blustered in a campaign speech, to a cheering crowd that was weary of endless American meddling in the Middle East. Look where you are heading now, America.

Determined to make Iran a pariah state forever, the United States is running afoul of rule-based international order it once contributed to build and isolating itself from the peace-loving global community.

If it continues its confrontational course, 2018 will mark the end of pax americana and possibly the beginning of bellum americanum.

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